Christians and the Christian Right
It is with a feeling of near-despair that one sees how completely the concept of Christianity has been successfully co-opted by a radical fringe group that Jesus Christ would surely not recognize as being even marginally acquainted with his teachings. A review of some of the recent, bizarre teachings of the so-called Christian right is disturbing indeed to anyone who calls him or herself a Christian. A few salient points are of interest:
- One prominent right wing editor, Joseph Farrah, proclaims in his column on December 23 that the ‘War on Christmas’, waged, apparently, by warriors in departments stores masquerading as sales clerks, who assault unsuspecting customers with the vile greeting of ‘Happy Holidays’, reminds him of terrorists in the Middle East. He refers to the ‘secular jihadists of the American Civil Liberties Union’, maintaining his ‘Middle East’ theme while misusing the term jihadists. But what does that matter? While the news media generally refers to jihad as a holy war, a more common definition, at least in the context of Islam, is that of a person’s spiritual struggle in devotion to the religion. But, let’s use the more commonly-known definition. The word sounds foreign, so it must be evil.
- None other than that most illustrious of (outgoing) Congresswomen, Michelle Bachmann, best known for her noble quest to maintain freedom of light bulb choice, laments that President Barrack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are calling for war against Israel. Would that it were so! But regardless of the fact that the president and secretary of state will jump through whatever hoops Israel holds, Ms. Bachmann sees this fictitious call to war, the product of her own limited brain power, as clear evidence that the world is in the last days, as prophesied in the Bible.
- The acceptance of marriage equality and other gay rights by Christians is, one Deryl Edwards of Liberty Counsel tells us, a clear indicator that the end is near. Pastor Dwight McKissic proclaims that ‘the Anti-Christ would be a homosexual, or certainly unmarried’. One is puzzled by this latter pronouncement. It would seem that the sexual orientation of the Anti-Christ is important to Mr. McKissic (why he concerns himself with anyone’s sexual orientation other than his own is a mystery to this writer). What, one asks, does the marital status of the Anti-Christ have to do with it? Does he equate the perceived, in his narrow little mind, ‘abomination’ of homosexuality, with being unmarried? Are single people, in his view, as evil as gays are in his view? But we will not ponder these questions here; they are probably unanswerable.
- Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, preparing for his prayer rally next month, sees natural disasters as God’s judgment on the U.S. for such things as marriage equality.
- Last, but certainly not least, the link that televangelist Matthew Hagee makes between the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and the Biblically discussed Mark of the Beast seems patently clear to him, even if the connection completely escapes this writer.
So what is a Christian in this environment to do? How should those of us who strive to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ respond to the nonsense spoken in our names? Before answering these questions, let us look at some of our ‘crimes’, as judged by those most rigid of judges, members of the Christian right.
- Accepting holiday greetings in whatever form they are offered. This writer is often wished ‘Happy Holidays’ in a local store. He smiles warmly at the clerk and offers his own greeting, whatever that may be (‘Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, etc.). He does not find the proffered greeting offensive; try as he might, he sees no reason to do so.
- Welcoming gay people who might attend church with us. Recognizing the rather universally-known Christian belief that we are all sons and daughters of God, not caring about someone’s sexual orientation would seem to fit in with that concept. We don’t care if the person sitting in the pew next to us is black or white; we also don’t care if they are gay or straight.
- Supporting Palestine. No, support for the basic human rights of all people is not an unchristian act. Rather, it is the epitome of Christianity, following Jesus Christ’s admonishment to help the poor and the downtrodden.
- Associating with Muslims. Christians are aware of a fact that the Christian right either doesn’t know, or denies. Muslims are people, not at all unlike Christians, Jews, atheists, or anyone else. They grow up, marry, have children, go to school, are employed. Their children enjoy playing in parks, coloring in books, watching movies. Their goals are no different than anyone else’s: providing for themselves and their families, serving in their community, loving and being loved. They, like Christians, seek a relationship with God, and to follow his direction.
Now, the complex matter of response. Do we hesitantly say, fearing the worst, that we are, indeed, Christian? Won’t most people then assume we are narrow-minded, bigoted, elitist, prejudiced and ignorant? Shouldn’t we hide our Christianity to prevent these misconceptions about ourselves?
The answer to all of these questions is ‘no’. By living the lives we do, happily accepting holiday greetings, however they are offered, treating gay people as if we are unaware of their sexual orientation (this writer, for one, does not quiz people about this topic when he meets them, or at any other time; it is of no concern to him); proudly supporting Palestine in thought and deed; not crossing the street if we see someone approaching wearing a kufeyah or hijab, we demonstrate who we are.
Perhaps two simple verses in the Bible may lead to some clarity. In Matthew 7, verses 22 and 23, Jesus Christ talked about some who professed to follow him:
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
It is not this writer’s place to judge, but he must stand up for Christianity against those who pervert the name of Christianity. As a Christian, it is his duty. It is equally his duty, as a Christian, to assist any oppressed people, support equality for all, combat prejudice and serve the less fortunate whenever possible.